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Research Methods






Martha Finnemore has penned many publications in the field of political science, with considerable success. This article presents a critical discussion on her arguments on the changing beliefs regarding the use of force. Finnemore presents the argument that modern interventions have resulted from the assessment of legitimacy at the international stage. An elaborate discussion takes place stretching over four centuries. This serves to highlight the patterns behind past interventions. Her research centers on historical data over the centuries in question. The reading provides a good understanding of the role of purpose in interventions by countries.


Research Methods


In the book, Finnemore explores the reasons that necessitate the use of force by states, albeit in foreign soil. She states that states have been granted the prerogative of using force within their own territories. Conversely, non-state actors in different countries are often branded as illegal. Implementation of force between different countries is determined by what the citizens respectively consider as their duties to one another. Finnemore subsequently identifies that failure to meet such obligations is the cause of violent conflict. In that regard, she looks at the past four centuries and wars that have taken place within that space. Through that approach, the author identifies patterns that took place in military intervention, over the ages.

Over the years, it is seen that powerful states have emerged and fallen, and their objectives have also changed during these times. The same has happened for the international community. Global expectations of what is legal have transformed over the years. For example, countries used to be able to use military means for collecting debts owed to them. However, there are peaceful platforms, such as the United Nations, for the solution of such issues in modern times. In line with that, states have been required to adhere to these standards. In the traditional context, these changes have been attributed to the emergence of new technologies and capabilities. These were used as a determinant of the balance of power or the offense-defense balance between countries (Finnemore, 2003).

Finnemore advances the argument that the implementation of force by states depends on claims of the legitimacy of their cause. Over the years, what has changed is what purposes the use of force. She attributes this to the idea that notions about order have become progressively legalized and rationalized. The reasons for intervening have, therefore, changed over the times. In the past, war was an endgame in its own right. However, it is less desirable in the recent times due to the economic ties between various countries.

States assess their interests in accordance to what is accepted by the international community.  For example, global powers usually incorporate their use of force into international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies (Finnemore, 2003). Finnemore argues that the state’s democratic or industrial background does not affect how the international community views interventions. Rather, interventions are based on geostrategic and associated economic reasons. In that respect, she highlights three factors that necessitated interventions. In earlier times, debt collection was used. What followed was humanitarian military intervention. In current times, interventions are based on identified threats to peace and security in the international context.

Research Method

Finnemore uses a unique linear approach towards her research on the content. She splits the implementation of interventions into three stages in accordance to historical periods. In that respect, she explores the interventions that have explored over the past four centuries. In the first stage, Finnemore covers the use of interventions throughout the 17th, 18th and some part of the 19th Century. She identifies the reasons that necessitated such actions by states. It is important to note that the analysis of purposes of interventions is a complex process that requires multiple standpoints. In that respect, she identifies causes that are related national identity, expansionist policies and economics (Finnemore, 2003). However, it is seen that debt collection emerges as the leading cause for interventions across borders. In the past, loans were granted on the basis of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. Failure to repay the debt was risky. Similarly, there were limited market mechanisms for recovering sums lent out. Military action, therefore, served as the primary means for recovering the lent resources. Finnemore has used historical data in identifying debt as the cause of interventions.

In the second phase, Finnemore identifies humanitarian reasons for state intervention. She uses historical literature in developing this argument. This is seen through her identification of multilateral interventions for the purposes of maintaining the security of people. Similarly, she identifies the reasons that identified people who could be assisted through such interventions. In the process, she charts out ethnic relations between different countries in Europe. For example, she highlights the relation between Germanic peoples as one of the factors behind German interventions on the continent. Similarly, she identifies the protection of non-whites and non-Christians as a cause of humanistic interventions. Through her study of literature, it is seen that 19th century interventions were agents of regime change, rather than territorial alterations.  In the development of her argument, Finnemore analyses literature such as Wheeler’s Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Finnemore, 2003).

In the final phase, Finnemore highlights intervention as a means of eliminating the risk of international instability. She deduces this through analysis of contemporary policies, such as those carried out by the United States against Afghanistan and Iraq. Her research also explores the cases of Somalia and Grenada, despite the debate on whether they fall under interventions. Similarly, she explores historical archives on the 20th century and cold war situations and what stability meant to different state actors. In her research, Michael Mandelbaum’s characterization of interventions serves as a fundamental part of her arguments. It relates current interventions to social work dedicated to stability in the global environment (Finnemore, 2003).

Throughout the course of the study, historical sources maintain an important role. The material has been sourced from both public and private archives. Fennimore consulted them due to several reasons. Firstly, they provide an understanding of the reasons behind interventions, in the context of the period. For example, the causes for intervention by the 18th century United Kingdom can be understood as the citizens of the time did. Secondly, they provide information regarding the intended change from such interventions.

In her research, Fennimore also utilizes secondary sources of historical data. For example, she consults experts on various wars that took place over the four centuries that she has focused on. In the development of the three phases of intervention, she implements Ruggie’s narrative explanatory protocol. In that respect, she utilizes a configurative and explanatory aspect in each of the three case studies. The chronological sequence of events is used to add emphasis to her research methodology. For example, she is able to develop the meanings of different interventions through analyzing their popular meanings throughout the ages (Finnemore, 2003).

Literature Review

In her book, Finnemore implements a constructivist approach towards the use of force by countries. In the work, she focuses on the questions of how such interventions took place, or how possible they could happen. She avoids questions related to why such events took place. This results into literature that is satisfying to her audience, who can deduce why they took place devoid of doubts. In the book, she explores how different countries have developed different notions of what comprise satisfactory reasons for the use of military interventions in foreign soil. In recent times, she identifies the notion that questions on stability have been discussed in a rationalized and legal manner. Similarly, Finnemore identifies that discourse on contemporary security research has shifted from material factors. For example, she notes that factors such as weapons and technology have played a lesser role in modern state relations, when compared to past ages.

In the literature, Finnemore affirms that state actors remain as the institutions of power. However, the nature of such states does not play a dominant role in the determination of intervention purposes. She identifies the idea of legitimacy as what is important to the majority of the global powers. The author positions the nature of legitimacy as revolutionary thinking. This may be attributed to the acceptance of the idea by different schools of thought, such as the neo-liberalists and realists. The use of interventions as an assessment of conflicts is arguably an act of no use. This is attributed to the little information that is added to the existing knowledgebase. Finnemore is able to challenge this argument in an authoritative manner. She has penned an expert review of the arguments regarding interventions in conflict. The book provides unique insights on the purposes of force in state relations. The book will, therefore, serve as an excellent source of knowledge for individuals intrigued by geopolitical strategy.

Critical Analysis

Traditional arguments in global security studies do not incorporate a worldwide view on state actors and their interventions. She introduces a new perspective to the field through her arguments on the legitimacy. In an analysis of the emergence of this new concept, she explores three stages of behavior in interventions. Through these steps, the author highlights the major thoughts that facilitated interventions. For example, she cites humanistic ideals in the second stage. The constructivist approach that has been maintained in the literature is useful in charting out each of these stages, as well as highlighting their major themes. However, the literature reflects that Finnemore has not achieved success in identification of the causes to these long-term dynamics. The literature is useful in exploration of associations between state power and its intended purposes.



Finnemore, M. (2003). The purpose of intervention. Ithaca [u.a.]: Cornell Univ. Press.


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